For Some States, Kids’ Insurance Fund Runs Out Next Week

(This article was provided by Kaiser Health News.)

Some states are facing a mid-January loss of funding for their Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) despite spending approved by Congress in late December that was expected to keep the program running for three months, federal health officials said late last week. The $2.85 billion was supposed to fund states’ CHIP programs through March 31. But some states will start running out of money after January 19, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. CMS did not say which states are likely to be affected first.

The latest estimates for when federal funding runs out could cause states to soon freeze enrollment and alert parents that the program could soon shut down. Iowa’s CHIP funding was expected to last until March, but this new information puts doubt on that estimate.

The CHIP program provides health coverage to 9 million children from lower-income households that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Its federal authorization ended October 1 and states were then forced to use unspent funds to carry them over while the House and Senate try to agree on a way to continue funding.

Congress extended funding on December 21 and touted that states would have money to last while Congress worked on a long-term funding solution. But CMS said Friday it could only guarantee that the appropriation will be enough to fund all states through January 19. Many states are already unexpectedly spending millions to prepare for a possible CHIP shutdown, including sending out notices to families.

CMS said the agency is in discussions with states to help deal with the funding shortfall.

“The funding … should carry all the states through January 19th based upon best estimates of state expenditures to date,” said CMS spokesman Johnathan Monroe. “However, due to a number of variables relating to state expenditure rates and reporting, we are unable to say with certainty whether there is enough funding for every state to continue its CHIP program through March 31, 2018.”

“States need to know whether they will need to find additional funding for children covered under the Medicaid CHIP program at a much lower federal matching rate, send letters to families, and re-program their eligibility systems,” said Lisa Dubay, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “Of course, the implications for families with CHIP-eligible children cannot be understated: Parents are worried that their children will lose coverage. And they should be.”

Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a child advocacy group, said Congress should have known its short-term funding plan was not enough. “The math never worked on the patch, as it only bought a few weeks,” he said. “Congress must get this finalized before January 19.”